How to Help a Friend

If you are concerned about a friend’s eating behaviors and/or body image, it is important to express these concerns in a thoughtful, caring way.

1.  Think through your concerns ahead of time.  Identify 2-3 specific instances when you were worried about your friend’s behavior.

2.  Choose a time to talk privately, and do so either one-on-one or in a very small group.

3.  Remember the phrase, “Sandwich in support.”  Begin by offering your support to your friend and letting her/him know that you care.  Then in a calm, loving manner, express the pre-identified specific concerns to your friend.  Explain that you think these behaviors may indicate that there is a problem.  End by again, offering your support.

4.  Avoid making your friend feel attacked, ashamed, or guilty.  Avoid offering simple solutions like, “You just need to eat!”  Avoid fighting over issue.  Continue to express support, and let your friend know that you want him/her to be healthy and happy.

5.  Keep in mind that there is only so much you can do.  Being the support person for an individual with an eating disorder can be quite stressful.  Remember to also take care of yourself.

6. Offer to go with your friend to talk with a trusted adult and/or mental health professional.  If he/she will not do so and you remain concerned, it is important that you seek assistance from a professional.

Based on information from the National Eating Disorders Association, 2002.